Friday being Bike to Work day here in the US, I noticed a great many more bicyclists out on the roads here in Indy. More than usual, for sure. It was a nice day, too, with highs in the low 80s, little wind, and low humidity.
For some people this was something they were pressured into doing by their employer, particularly larger ones like IUPUI, Lilly, and Rolls Royce. For some it was just another day in the saddle. And for a few it may have been a refreshing alternative.
For an even greater many, Friday was a day spent wondering, ”why the heck are there so many of these danged cyclists in my way?” This attitude is most certainly from one demographic: conservative Republicans.
Liberals, progressives and Democrats rarely criticize bicycles, cyclists, or bike infrastructure like bike lanes and trails. And for good reason, as bikes do lots of nice liberal things: no pollution, little to no consumption of fossil fuels, and it’s part of a small counter culture.
But as I was pedaling back from BDU on Friday evening I thought, ”It’s Republicans and conservatives that ought to love the idea of bicycling, a lot more so than Liberals.
Indeed, conservatives like a key set of things: freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and self reliance.
The bicycle is emblematic of all those things more so than a car ever hopes to be.
On a bicycle, you are the machine. Their affordability permits virtually everyone to be able to afford one and that ability permits people to achieve a new level of self reliance. If someone is too low income for a car, the fact they can ride a bike to get to work or school to support themselves and better their lives is an incredibly conservative idea. ”I’m powering myself and working harder than anyone else in a car to further my life.
The bicycle is a key machine to enable the freedom of people to choose how they travel, how they go about their work, how they live their lives. Take the example of a young person, say 17 years old. They want a job, but they can’t get to that job because they don’t have a car and their parents for whatever reason can’t get them there regularly. Enter the bicycle, where a healthy young person who otherwise wouldn’t be able to enter the job market now can by way of their bike. Now, this 17 year old student can work part time and pay into the tax base earlier, learn the art of saving and spending, and it keeps them off the streets and away from boredom. It promotes freedom, responsibility, and a healthy work ethic. It might even alter their life early enough to keep them off welfare or other social aid later. And, it’s not illogical to think that a teen who goes to work after school is spending their time working and not spending time in a complicated situation that might result in a teenage pregnancy.
And if there’s one thing that bikes assuredly do, it’s create a healthier rider. A few months in the saddle can take an overweight individual to a healthy weight. It enables people to take charge of their life, to get healthy and subsequently reduce the health expenditures this nation is already struggling to grapple with. The Bush administration tried encouraging more Americans to exercise. George W. Bush himself was an avid cyclist. Enabling people to take control of their own body and mind is as conservative as lowering taxes. The bicycle does just that better than any machine on the market or any gym membership ever could, all while allowing people to be productive.
In addition, bicycle infrastructure is cheap, something even the most frugal of Republicans could agree to. Painting some extra lines on the road is almost inconsequential in cost to the whole road itself. It’s not like bicyclists are demanding separate bike highways all to ourselves.
Biking gets kids and adults exercising, it allows people to flex their wallets in a uniquely free way, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil, it lowers our health costs on the front end so we don’t pay as much on the back end, it enables people to get on their way on their own power and it encourages tighter communities and gives families an activity they can do together all while running their errands. It’s a uniquely American and conservative thing.
Otherwise, in a car or truck, people are forced into a less healthy activity, they are likely in debt to a loan that’s sucking their ability to support other local businesses, and cars force us to spend more and more money on roads and highways just for cars designed to transport 4 or more people, when they often just have one person in them.
So the next time you see a cyclist on the road as some liberal hippie there to somehow attack your sensibilities, remember, they’re doing a much more conservative thing and saving us all more money than you are in your car or truck.